Most media attention and venture funding in North Carolina goes to tech and life science firms in the Triangle. But a new round of grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration shows the growing muscle of entrepreneurial communities in Wilmington and Charlotte.

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNC-Wilmington, which launched just a year ago, received a $50,000 boost.

City Startup Labs and RevTech Labs in Charlotte were the other two North Carolina winners.

The three were among the 50 accelerators selected from over 800 applications submitted to the SBA. Winners were spread across 31 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

“The purpose of the competition was to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” the SBA declared. “There are entrepreneurial activities taking place in all 50 states, but some are better supported by private sector ecosystems than others.”

In several ways, what the SBA said about the U.S. is relevant to North Carolina. RTP is the hub around which the startup world revolves, but Wilmington and Charlotte entrepreneurs are determined to make sure their communities give startupsthe supported needed for growth. UNCW’s venture event last week and a growing list of companies show that the CIE is off to a strong start under the direction of Jim Roberts and with strong support from the university. UNCW deserves a tip of the cap for recognizing the growing importance of entrepreneurs to economic growth and opportunities for graduates.

The money is nice – but perhaps more importantly is the recognition and boost in credibility the grants means for each of the startups.

“The SBA is empowering accelerators and startups that are on the cutting edge of successful, innovative new endeavors,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in announcing the grants. “We’ve seen the enormous success of the accelerator model in communities like Silicon Valley. We believe we can export this type of sophisticated support structure across the country to help start-ups become commercially viable and create jobs more quickly. I want SBA to stand for ‘Smart, Bold and Accessible’ and these accelerators encompass all three of these goals.”

Each accelerator went through an extensive judging process. the field was cut to 100 and those had to submit video presentations.

The money does come with strings. Each must report quarterly on jobs created, funds raised, startups launched and the securing of corporate sponsors.

“This [data] will allow the SBA to create a useful database of accelerators and their impact, and to develop long-term relationships with the startups and constituents in these innovative and entrepreneurial communities,” the SBA said.

The winning list

Here’s the complete list of SBA winners:


  • Rocket City Launch- Madison, AL
  • Arizona Center for Innovation- Tucson, AZ
  • Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative- Scottsdale, AZ
  • My Startup XX- La Jolla, CA
  • Telluride Venture Accelerator- Telluride, CO
  • The Refinery- Westport, CT
  • EatsPlace- Washington, DC
  • Starter Studio- Orlando, FL
  • Sunshine Labs- Longwood, FL
  • Venture Hive- Miami, FL
  • GVS Transmedia Accelerator- Kailua-Kona, HI
  • Iowa Startup Accelerator- Cedar Rapids, IA
  • James E Hogge Technology and Entrepreneurship Center- Nampa, ID
  • Good Food Business Accelerator- Oak Park, IL
  • Park Forest Maker Space- East Hazel Crest, IL
  • 712 Innovations- Topeka, KS
  • Bioscience Technology Business Center- Lawrence, KS
  • XlerateHealth- Louiville, KY
  • UpTech, Inc- Convington, LA
  • Smarter in the City- Boston, MA
  • Accelerator for the Commercialization of Technology- Columbia, MD
  • Coolhouse Labs- Harbor Springs, MI
  • Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator- St. Louis, MO
  • Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship- Wilmington, NC
  • City Startup Labs- Charlotte, NC
  • RevTech Labs- Charlotte, NC
  • Rutgers Food Innovation Center- Bridgeton, NJ
  • Center for Unique Business Enterprises- Reno, NV
  • Cumberland Business Incubator- Harriman, NY
  • Manufacture NY- Brooklyn, NY
  • Southern Tier Hardware Accelerator- Ithaca, NY
  • The Brandery- Cincinnati, OH
  • Portland State University Business Accelerator- Portland, OR
  • Sustainable Valley Technology Accelerator- Medford, OR
  • AlphaLabGear- Pittsburgh, PA
  • Neo Lab- Pittsburgh, PA
  • Bridgeworks Enterprise Center- Allentown, PA
  • Jump Start Incubator- Reading, PA
  • Piloto 151- San Juan, PR
  • Dirt Works Incubator Farm- Charleston, SC
  • SDTBC Business Launch Boot Camp and Accelerator- Sioux Falls, SD
  • Jumpstart Foundry- Nashville, TN
  • Start Co Integration Accelerator- Memphis, TN
  • Break Fast and Launch- San Antonio, TX
  • Dream It Ventures- Austin, TX
  • SURGE Accelerator- Houston, TX
  • Sustainable Startups- Salt Lake City, UT
  • Peninsula Technology Incubator- Hampton, VA
  • Launch Box Growth Accelerator- Kenosha, WI
  • Vetransfer- Milwaukee, WI